India v Sri Lanka, 2nd Test, Delhi December 12, 2005

'I really admire Vaas' - Srinath

Javagal Srinath: 'Fast bowling takes different meanings at different stages of your career' © Getty Images

He may have hung up his bowling boots and stepped into the commentary box, but Javagal Srinath still thinks very much like an Indian cricketer. He can't help but drop his guard sometimes and refer to the Indian team as we rather than them. Yet when Chaminda Vaas trapped Gautam Gambhir in front, Srinath allowed himself a smile. Because he knows just how hard it is to run in day-in and day-out and bowl fast on these pitches. If there is one club in cricket where members stick by each other, it is the fast bowlers' club. Srinath took time out to talk to Cricinfo about Vaas, and bowling in the subcontinent.

On Vaas reaching 300 Test wickets
When people spoke about Sachin's 35th 100, it did call for some celebrations. Any milestone calls for that. But I'd like to look beyond the mere numbers and see what has gone into it ... tremendous amount of commitment, the resilience, coming back up after being down. At a milestone you take stock of the situation and you celebrate. That's what statistics should mean to anyone. I'm very pleased for Chaminda Vaas because credit should be given to anyone who takes wickets on subcontinent tracks. The Sri Lankan team has never been considered a threat in the same degree as Australia or South Africa or even the Indians and they're always up against quality batsmen. If you take the split of Vaas's wickets - home and away - you'll find his performance is equally good. That is noteworthy.

On Vaas bowling without much fast bowling support all his career
The commonality that you see in India and Sri Lanka is that fast bowlers are few and far between. The wickets we play on could be a major reason for that. The reasons are the same for the two countries. In spite of not having much fast-bowling support he has bowled his heart out. But he did have good support from Arjuna Ranatunga, who spotted him and nurtured him.

On Vaas knowing his own strengths and weaknesses
Fast bowling takes different meanings at different stages of your career. When you are young and energetic you tend to try and bowl as quickly as you can. The sooner you realise that pace is just one of the components of fast bowling you start thinking about line, length, the conditions. For Chaminda Vaas that came early in his career, I'm sure about that. That's the reason he has had so much success in the last four years. He has kept the ball in the right areas and allowed pace to play second fiddle. He does not try to bowl express pace, his action does not allow it. He has kept to the basics on most occasions, and bowled to the situation. Once you start doing that it's easier to see weaknesses in batsmen. Bowling in the right areas will expose the weaknesses of most batsmen.

On how easy or difficult it is to know yourself as a fast bowler
A lot of parameters are involved in getting to know yourself as a fast bowler. In the end you have to decide what changes are needed, how to adapt. In retrospect people can be a mirror to you. But when the process is on I don't think anyone has any insights. It's more or less trial and error to check what you have in yourself. Understanding pitches, making subtle changes to adapt to different conditions, these are the key things you need to realise as a fast bowler. Glenn McGrath is a classic example. Even though he has had an ideal body to bowl quick he has never relied on pace. He understood the knack of getting wickets early, and Vaas has done the same, in harsher conditions. That's why I really admire Vaas.

On Vaas not having a fast bowler to look up to from Sri Lanka
There's enough Test cricket going on around the world. It's not necessary that an idol has to be from your own country. Being an inswing bowler I was always a great fan of Imran Khan and how he handled batsmen. Vaas has said more than once in interviews that he was a big fan of Wasim Akram, and tried to emulate him. An idol can be from anywhere.

On Vaas's longevity ... he's going strong after 90 Tests
More than the wickets he has taken I am amazed at his fitness levels and the way he has changed his bowling action over the years. Ranatunga played a key role. The captain's confidence makes a big difference for any bowler. Ranatunga understood and realised that they needed a fast bowler if they were to be successful. When Pramodya Wickramasinghe could not do well consistently they relied more and more on Vaas, and he has risen to occasion most times.

On how fast bowlers keep their chins up when bowling long spells in tough conditions and going wicketless
In the end it is very important how you conserve energy. How you start the day, how you pace yourself, how you end, these are important things and people like Dilhara Fernando need to learn these things from Vaas. If you are quick and bowl flat out in the first 15 overs, you struggle to come back in the last spell. Pace can be intimidating, but that is only a certain percentage of fast bowling, it is not the main thing. In conditions like this in Delhi's winter you can bowl more overs in a day than say in Sri Lanka but you also get stiff, so you have to be constantly stretching, and keeping warm. It's small adjustments like this. How you space yourself and conserve energy is crucial. If you run in hard and bowl quick, but down the leg side, that doesn't make much sense. You have to know where to expend energy.

Anand Vasu is assistant editor of Cricinfo